Interview: Mattar Al Tayer

What impact has the global financial crisis had on the RTA’s public-private-partnership (PPP) framework? Has it affected the availability of financing?

MATTER AL TAYER: The government of Dubai realises the role of infrastructure in fostering economic and social development and maintaining its competitive edge. For this reason investment has steadily continued throughout the recent global slowdown, albeit on a smaller scale due to the deceleration of urban development projects. So as part of sound and responsible management, we have carefully reviewed and rescheduled the construction programmes for some of our transport plans. Such is the case of the Dubai Tram that has been rescheduled for completion in the end of 2014 instead of the beginning of 2012 as in the original plan. Regarding partnerships, the overall objective has been about developing strong alliances with the private sector. The RTA has developed a strong reputation in PPPs. We are approached on a regular basis by local and international firms for the purpose of investigating different PPPs. We have developed a comprehensive PPP framework, a draft for the PPP law, and have also initiated negotiations with a number of private sector entities. An example is RTA’s feasibility studies and plans to develop Union Square Metro Station utilising Transit Oriented Development concepts, building truck rest areas, and providing public use bicycle services.

What steps are currently being taken in order to enhance Dubai’s mass transit system?

AL TAYER: We certainly recognise and understand the existence of some bottle-necks and areas of particular congestion. Our integrated plan covers the development of the road network and the public transport system in addition to intelligent transport systems, awareness campaigns, and policies legislation. In terms of road network, we have six major developments already approved that will take place in the next 10 years with a combined budget of Dh8.1bn ($2.2bn). Special enhancements of roads and intersections will be done around Dubai International Airport, the Dubai Mall and Jebel Ali Port. It is in our plans also to develop the Dubai Metro Rail network, which by 2030 will not only see extensions but also new lines. Moreover, the Dubai Bus network is set to expand to 3000 km of routes and 2000 buses by 2020. Our target for public transport mode share is planned at 20% from 12% in 2012. For 2030 we target 30% public transport mode share.

Does customer engagement play a role in the development of the emirate’s transportation roadmap?

AL TAYER: We are mindful that ultimately it is our customers who will decide how well we are delivering. As such we regularly measure customer satisfaction through surveys and interviews. In Dubai, we have to deal and interact with more than 200 nationalities, so we must have communication and feedback. We also have a customer’s council to listen to suggestions and a central customer services committee to improve services across all our RTA agencies. The suggestions are taken into consideration when planning new projects and services and also when modifying existing ones.

How is the availability of parking in congested areas being addressed in the short term?

AL TAYER: We have established standards to control the provision of car parking in Dubai based on type and density. However, we believe that providing more parking in congested areas does not represent an efficient solution. Congestion and difficulty finding parking spaces are among the factors that can encourage people to shift from private cars to public transport. We are aiming to create a balance between the use of private cars, public transport, and non-motorised modes. Some of our planned measures are variable parking fees depending on congestion levels, public transport availability and accessibility, as well as restricted parking in certain zones. In order to encourage people to use the metro and other public transport modes, we are also planning to construct new “Park & Ride” facilities.